An Aitkin County organization with a mission to raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues and suicide was chosen as the recipient of the statewide 2023 Minnesota Touchstone Energy Community Award.
The Committee for the Awareness and Prevention of Suicide (CAPS) was chosen last fall by Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives, as its local community award winner. The co-op was also able to present CAPS with the statewide award along with $2,000 at its annual meeting last month.
Electric cooperatives adhere to the seven cooperative principles, including “concern for community.” In recognition of this principle, Minnesota’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives take the opportunity each fall to present local awards to individuals and organizations for outstanding contributions to their communities.
Local recipients are then automatically entered into the statewide competition administered by the Minnesota Rural Electric Association.
CAPS began after an invitation from the Minnesota Department of Health to apply for a suicide prevention grant due to high rates of suicide in Aitkin County. Following an initial assessment, it was determined the county’s residents needed to gain more awareness of mental health issues and suicide, which is when CAPS was formed by local stakeholders.
In addition to community events to raise awareness of these issues, CAPS developed a “You Are Not Alone” campaign that features star-shaped stickers with information about crisis resources. Local business owners have placed these stickers in their windows to show their support for this initiative.
Looking to the future, CAPS plans to continue working to spread the message that people are not alone.
“Even though in their darkest moments it feels that way, there is help,” said Stacey Ann Durgin Smith, who works as a public health educator with Aitkin County Health & Human Services.
“We hope that our expansion of resources and further events will help grow the number of people in our county that will understand how to access resources, that it is OK to need help and seek help before they think of ending their lives.”— Stacey Ann Durgin Smith, public health educator
Touchstone Energy is a nationwide alliance of more than 600 local, consumer-owned electric cooperatives in 46 states dedicated to the values of integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. Thirty-three of 44 distribution cooperatives in Minnesota are members of the Touchstone Energy national brand.